Kage Baker did not believe in aliens.
Mind you, she wanted to believe. Or, no, not exactly – what Kage wanted was to know about aliens. She felt that faith should be restricted to certain areas of metaphysics. Whether or not there was non-human life shouldn’t be a candidate for faith: it required proof. She had sufficient personal proof to convince her of the existence of Divinity, so the problem of mere faith did not apply there, either.
But none of the modern speculations on the almost-certain-for-nearly-sure case of extraterrestrial life convinced Kage. The Drake Equation, exoplanets, random organic compounds floating on asteroids and in deep space, the hints of buried oceans on Jovian and Saturnian moons – all based, at bottom, on a broad application of faith and conjecture. Obviously, life has demonstrably risen once; but even though we know it’s here (hint: it’s US), we still aren’t sure how it happened. And if we can’t be sure how our own replicating molecule system got its start, how can we really speculate on another?
We only have a sample of one. And we don’t know how even that one works.
Ancient astronauts annoyed Kage homicidally. In fact, Von Daniken and his minions and devotees particularly enraged her. It was partly because their theories are so blithely, determinedly, arrogantly ignorant; but mostly because they all deny that humans could have the brains, guts and creativity to make the wonders we find eroding out of old hillsides. Kage was furious on behalf of the ancients, whose construction of wonders like pyramids (all of ’em) and wet batteries; places like Baalbeck, Machu Picchu and Gobekli Tepes; inventions like beer and bread and automatons were all such extraordinary works of human genius. People like Giorgio A. Tsoukalos – well-know puffball imitator and nutcake – Kage felt were a disgrace to the Greek civilization that produced Archimedes and Hero.
You don’t need aliens to find the circumference of the world or use a lever! Kage would snarl. “Revealed knowledge” is always some jackass talking through his tinfoil hat!
(I must admit, though, that she remained very interested in some, select inexplicable phenomena: UFOs. Sasquatch. The continuing tendency of people to see dwarves. She followed the literature with great curiosity, to see of anything other than faddish insanity was ever proved.)
For the last several decades, the scientific community has grown continously louder and more certain that life must exist Out There. There are all those planets now known to be floating in their parent stars’ Goldilocks Zones. There probably are ice-locked oceans of actual water on Ganymede and Europa; more exotically, Titan does have a functioning atmosphere and robust geology that might harbour some Life Not As We Know It. And something belches methane at irregular intervals and by no known mechanism out on Mars. Until we settle what is causing all these hints and teases of potential life, we can’t give up on it yet.
And that doesn’t even touch on the hopes and expectations of SETI. They’re betting on the probability of aliens at least as technologically adept as us flashing up some sort of electronic signal one of these days. So far all we’ve identified are various forms of stellar death explosions, but who knows?
Even so, science presently is making some tired and uncertain noises. See this article: http://tinyurl.com/huhwpbv for some speculation in the negative zones of the search for aliens; it lends a depth of practicality to the entire thing that is probably badly needed. We need to keep the wish list open on what we hope to find, and how, and where.
Nonetheless, as a writer, especially a science fiction writer, Kage wanted there to be … Others in the world. She sometimes described herself as a wistful xenophile. And in her writing, she followed the time-honoured tradition of creating her own aliens. However, Kage made them all family. She said there was plenty of room for everyone amid the hominids.
Even during Kage’s lifetime, it was becoming obvious that the genus Homo has habitually displayed the sexual selectivity of an oyster. The human seed has always been broadcast far and wide. The human family tree is not a tree – it’s a big messy hedgerow, because we’ve never thought twice about interbreeding with anyone even faintly related to us. To misquote the inestimable Mr. Jeff Foxworthy: if your ancestors slept with their cousins – and, Dear Readers, they all did, all the time – then you might be a human being.
So Kage made her aliens – us. The infamous Greys she transmuted into a cryptic branch of hominids, one with a tendency toward OCD and a hive mind. She invented the tall, pale, reproductively troubled Crewkern hominids – eventually, they were to have figured as the template for some of the classic Fae. (And they might yet.) She uplifted chimpanzees, in “Hanuman”; she speculated on different breeds of hunters and agriculturists meeting, greeting and eating one another in “Old Flattop”. She was beginning to postulate yet another new branch of Homo sapiens arising from autistics.
All in the family, you see. No need for reptiloids in the Royal Houses of Europe, or Gandalf wandering South America; no need for the proto-Egyptians to be led by the hand from the muddy banks of the Nile to learn how to pile rocks on one another. Great Zimbabwe was the work of local geniuses. So were Cahokia, and Tiahuanco, and Nan Madol. Maybe the Coral Castle, too; Kage toyed with it having been built by a local lost, last scion of the Little Stupid Guys.
Kage wanted to know aliens existed. On Mars, she gave two aliens life – a lichen and a primitive bryophite analog – and that’s it. Nothing else. Everything else, every one else, is human. Or something so similar it only lives down the block, in that weird old house where the lights flicker green in the middle of the night …
But that’s all right, you know. It’s just the neighbors.
They know we’re here. They’ve been watching us for a very long time with mixed amusement and horror. We are their version of reality TV.
Kage subscribed to the popular theory (among astrophysicists, science fiction writers and Dalai Lamas) that the lack of alien contact was actually proof of intelligent life in the Universe. Also, the Donald Adams theory that the only aliens who DID contact us were bored, drunken teenagers. And/or Zaphod Beeblebrox, if there’s a difference …